Sacramento, Calif. -- The Olympic bronze medalist and world champion raced as such on Saturday at the USATF Outdoor Championships. Jenny Simpson won her fourth consecutive national title in the 1500m with a powerful homestretch run to win the race in 4:06.33.
Simpson was followed by Rio Olympian Kate Grace who closed for second in 4:06.95. And Sara Vaughn executed a stunning come-from-behind effort to claim the third and final spot with a finishing time of 4:07.85, less than a second ahead of fourth-place finisher Lauren Johnson, a 2015 world qualifier at 1500m. The performance marks Vaughn's first international championship team. Along with being a professional middle distance runner, Vaughn is also a real estate agent and mother of three children.
Simpson, Grace, and Vaughn will represent Team USA in the 1500m at the IAAF World Championships in London.
Eleanor Fulton of Skechers Performance was the early leader before Shannon Osika took over just before halfway. The first year pro and 2016 Michigan alum is coached by Mike McGuire, whose under-the-radar athlete Jamie Phelan stole the show at NCAAs with a surprise win in the 1500m. Could a Wolverine spoil the party again?
The answer would be no, as Simpson passed into first with 500m to go with Grace, Lauren Johnson and Alexa Efraimson in tow. 1500m American record holder Shannon Rowbury, the 5K runner-up last night, tried to go with the lead pack but seemed too fatigued to match the move.
Simpson split 1:00.41 over the final 400m to win her fourth consecutive title unchallenged in 4:06.33.
Grace, an 800m Olympic finalist in Rio, closed in 1:00.84 to take second place in 4:06.95 and Vaughn seemingly came out of nowhere --she was in ninth at the bell-- to kick past Johnson, who was now flailing towards the finish line for fourth, and Efraimson, who would take fifth in her best career placement at a U.S. championship.
Kate Grace was impressed with Jenny Simpson's strength in 1500m final:
Nikki Hiltz of Arkansas, who was in 11th place at the bell, would finish as the top collegian in sixth with a lifetime best of 4:10.28. Early leader Osika placed seventh and Rowbury was eighth. Last year's Olympic Trials fourth placer, Amanda Eccleston, placed ninth.
Vaughn's third place finish was one of the biggest shocks on Saturday and she said to media after the race that even she couldn't believe it happened. The 31-year-old threw her arms in the air after she crossed the finish line in disbelief, then immediately asked those around her if she had actually finished third.
The former Colorado Buff had a breakout race two weeks ago at the Music City Distance Carnival, where she lowered her five-year-old lifetime best in the 1500m from 4:08.34 to 4:06.64.
Sara Vaughn's third-place finish to make the world team was one of the biggest surprises of the USATF Championships: